NEW YORK -- There's a chance we might see two surly teams on the ice tonight when the Sabres and New York Rangers meet in Madison Square Garden.
Both clubs are coming off 3-0 defeats that left their coaches scratching their heads. The Sabres fell Friday night to Detroit in a game that saw them get outshot, 45-19, while the Rangers were no-shows Sunday night in Ottawa -- prompting a 90-second postgame blast to reporters and quick exit from coach Alain Vigneault.
"There were similar scores and similar 'talking-tos," a smiling Sabres coach Dan Bylsma joked after his team's morning skate today. "We're not happy with how we played in that Detroit game. We know that wasn't how we play, it wasn't acceptable. We're back at it against a tough opponent tonight to respond."
The Sabres would normally be looking to get a quick jump on a team playing on consecutive nights. Bylsma, however, is wary of how the Rangers might react out of the gate.
"You are feeling a little that they're going to come out with a response to that criticism of the way they played," Bylsma said. "They're playing a back to back and we have to make that a factor with how we play. But you can't come out and just expect them to be tired and feeling the effects of playing yesterday. You have to come out and play at your tempo, play at your pace and bring it to them. Force that to be an issue in the game."
The Rangers are one point ahead of the Islanders and two points ahead of New Jersey in the tight battle for second place in the Metropolitan Division.
"They're a good team and you are thinking about jumping on them right away with a back to back," said Buffalo defenseman Zach Bogosian. "After last night, we might have to weather a storm a little bit because they'll come out hot. We have to make sure we're ready to go."
Chad Johnson will be in goal tonight for the Sabres, which leaves Robin Lehner to make his reunion start Tuesday night in Ottawa. This is the Rangers' last game before the All-Star break, so you would think the bad showing against the Senators will lead Vigneault to come back with Henrik Lundqvist in net.
The Rangers did not skate today after their return from Ottawa, so that announcement will come later today. So will a status report on second-leading scorer Rick Nash, who sat out that game with a leg injury.
Josh Gorges did not skate for Buffalo and will sit out. It appears Phil Varone will be a healthy scratch at forward with Cal O'Reilly staying in the lineup.